The Morning Jolt

Elections

Will Democrats Catch a November Wave?

Anti-Trump protesters hold a rally outside Amsoil Arena during a visit by President Donald Trump in Duluth, Minn., June 20, 2018. (Adam Bettcher/Reuters)

Today, we take a look at recent polls in the upcoming midterm elections, the possible effect of rising home values on birth rates, and the administration separating itself from its own policy.

Midterm Update

For all the talk of a “blue wave” this November, the outcome of the midterm elections seems entirely in doubt. The Senate map is extremely favorable to Republicans; the Democratic lead in the “generic ballot” is nowhere near its double-digit highs from winter; Democrats did not do as well as they would have hoped in the recent California primary elections.

The widely followed Cook Political Report has downgraded two competitive House races in the Democratic direction. The seat of Barbara Comstock (R., Va.), representing the state’s tenth congressional district, is now considered a Democratic lean rather than a toss-up. Comstock faces Democratic state senator Jennifer Wexton. In Kentucky, the race between three-term incumbent Andy Barr, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, is now considered a toss-up.

Some interesting polls have emerged in key Senate races. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) seems poised to fend off challenger Lou Barletta, whom I profiled last September. A Franklin and Marshall poll has Casey up 17 percentage points. Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon poll suggests incumbent Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) is vulnerable: She trails Republican challenger Kevin Cramer 48–44. Two recent polls from Wisconsin show Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin with a solid lead (eleven and nine percentage points), while a Monmouth poll puts Joe Manchin up 50–39 over Republican Patrick Morrisey.

Plenty, however, depends on turnout, and none of these pollsters can see the future. The story of the midterm elections will be the story of two parties trying to turn out two countervailing groups of people: Democrats want to capitalize on their gains in white, upper-middle-class suburbia (especially among women), while Republicans want to tighten their hold on the white working class. The first group could turn the House election into a blue wave; the second group could form a countervailing red wave for the Senate. Trump has had a catalyzing effect on the Democratic base in most high-profile special elections since taking office, leading to the blue-wave chatter. Time will tell whether the GOP can muster a reciprocal wave of its own.

Home Values and Birth Rates

We know that the U.S. birth rate has broadly declined since 2008. For Millennial women, Zillow Research finds, that trend has been strongest in counties where home values have risen.

This is no proof that rising home values cause a decline in birth rates, but if that were the case, we’d expect to see data like this: “Birth records from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show a strong negative relationship between home value growth and birth rate change across large counties in the U.S. for 25- to 29-year-old women, from 2010 to 2016,” Zillow writes. The effect they identify is significant: “On average, if a county’s home value increase was 10 percentage points higher than another county’s, its fertility rate fell 1.5 percentage points further.”

The trend doesn’t hold for some localities. Many of these are in the South, such as Miami-Dade County and Dallas County. Utah County, where Provo is located, saw its birth rate rise. For localities where the trend is unusually strong, look along the coasts: Los Angeles County, Orange County, Kings County, and Philadelphia County.

Zillow’s write-up of the research suggests there could be several causes for the trend. “One alternative explanation could be the possibility that there is clustering into certain counties of people with careers that pay well enough for expensive homes but make it difficult to have children before 30.” That is, people living in more-expensive houses might be the type to put off having kids, leading to a decline in birth rates that will even out as they age; it is well known that affluent Millennials are likelier to have kids later in life than were their elders.

But the more worrisome hypothesis is that higher housing prices will discourage people who might not be able to afford the rising costs of homeownership from deciding to settle down and have kids at all. This is an intuitively plausible explanation that researchers have set forth before. Though homeowners benefit from a bull market in real estate, those gains don’t flow to people who don’t own homes. In many cases, rising home prices might make it more difficult to attain financial stability. And contrary to cheap headlines that portray young people as a collection of irrational reprobates, plenty of us make decisions on a perfectly reasonable cost–benefit basis.

More research will be needed to confirm the trend. But for those of us with a strong prior in favor of market solutions to make housing cheaper, this would just mark another reason.

The Administration Separates Itself from Family Separation

The president signed an executive order yesterday purporting to end his administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents when families are found illegally crossing the border. But the crisis is far from over. More than 2,000 kids were detained before the order was signed, and Trump included no language to account for their situations. Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether the government has the resources to detain family units together as the order stipulates — much less the ability to do it legally, given the Flores consent decree prohibiting children from being held for more than 20 days. David French doubts the order is workable, while Dara Lind thinks the text is operative. The parade of incompetence marches on.

ADDENDA: I didn’t know Mike Potemra, NR’s late literary editor, personally, but the remembrances posted to NRO in the wake of his death were touching, and Mike’s writing was that of a deeply human, obviously intelligent man. Today the staff of National Review attends his memorial mass.

The NBA draft is tonight. Stay tuned for my thoughts in this space tomorrow. What I’m watching for tonight: Will Kawhi Leonard be dealt? Will the Kings go with Luka Doncic at No. 2? And who will be willing to take a flier on Michael Porter Jr.?

Music critics have had a difficult time dealing with the string of new Kanye West-associated albums. DAYTONA, the Pusha T album for which he was executive producer, was unimpeachable; critics swallowed their tongues and gave it high marks. If Yeezy’s solo project, ye, was uneven, it also featured some of his most personal work and interesting production. The album polarized critics, sometimes within their own reviews: Pitchfork’s Meaghen Garvey tore album and artist to shreds as her editors gave the album a respectable 7.1. But the next project, Kids See Ghosts by West and Kid Cudi, is Kanye’s best work in five years. Trendy outfits such as Pitchfork and The Ringer couldn’t bear to admit that Ye had returned to glory. Only Anthony Fantano was willing to admit the obvious.

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